Bird flu death toll increases

The bird flu virus is now present in several European countries.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | March 2, 2006


The bird flu virus is now present in several European countries, continuing its spread from the originating Asian countries. In Iraq, another confirmed death brings the bird flu death toll there to two people.

Health officials confirmed Thursday that the bird flu caused the death of an Iraqi man in January. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the bird flu has infected 174 people and caused 94 deaths worldwide.

Officials in Europe continue to respond to the quick spread of the virus throughout the continent's poultry and wild birds. Some countries' health organizations are demanding the quarantine of all farm birds. Others are now concerned about housepets contracting the disease after a cat in Germany died from the virus. The cat was the first mammal known to have contracted the virus. A WHO statement responded to the event.

According to the release, "There is no present evidence that domestic cats play a role in the transmission cycle of H5N1 viruses. To date, no human case has been linked to exposure to a diseased cat. No outbreaks in domestic cats have been reported."

However the statement also noted that the case is not the same as far as human contact with wild or domesticated birds.

The bird flu has also been confirmed in poultry or wild birds in two African countries. According to a WHO map, infected birds have been found in more than 25 countries stretching from Europe to Africa to Asia. No cases have been found in North America as of yet.

The WHO maintains a pandemic alert rating system, which is currently set at Level 3 "Pandemic Alert" as of Wednesday. The Level 3 alert states the current pandemic threat as "No or very limited human-to-human transmission."

In late February, WHO scientists also responded to recent media reports about the threat of the H5N1 virus mutating and causing a larger pandemic. In a news release, the WHO states that "since 1997, when the first human infections with the H5N1 avian influenza virus were documented, the virus has undergone a number of changes.

"These changes have affected patterns of virus transmission and spread among domestic and wild birds. They have not, however, had any discernible impact on the disease in humans, including its modes of transmission. Human infections remain a rare event. The virus does not spread easily from birds to humans or readily from person to person."

The statement also noted that "influenza viruses are inherently unstable," and that predicting whether mutations will affect the spread of human-to-human cases is very difficult.


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Related Links:

World Health Organization Avian Flu Website

US Pandemic Information

Centers for Disease Control Avian Flu Website

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